Jan 18, 201303:26 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Tasting Panel: Allagash Curieux and Firestone Walker XVI Anniversary Ale
In the run up to Cowboys & Indians’ Best of the West issue, the editors have been on a bourbon barrel-aged beer kick. The idea of combining two great American libations is just so darn tempting. As Steve Gonzalez, Research and Small Batch Manager for Stone Brewing Company, once told me, bourbon, the cowboy cocktail, is as “American as it gets, and it’s part of our heritage.” While Goose Island was the first brewery to barrel age beer, back in 1992, when they poured a stout into Jim Beam barrels, two of the best craft breweries currently utilizing wood are Allagash in Portland, Maine, and Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, California. Allagash pulled out of the Lone Star State in 2011. The latter just announced it’s entering the Texas market this year.
Recently, Steven Phelps, website content manager, and I sat down with Brian Brown, Plano Craft Beer Examiner and Certified Beer Judge Certification Program judge (read: the man knows a little something about the subject at hand) to sample and discussion Allagash’s Curieux, Triple Ale aged in Jim Beam barrels, and Firestone Walker’s XVI Anniversary Ale, a blend of 226 oak barrels and eight beers, including Stickee Monkee (aged in bourbon and brandy barrels), PNC (aged in tequila barrels), and Parabola (aged in bourbon barrels).
Brian Brown: I don’t get bourbon at all, but I do taste peppery notes and Belgian yeast.
José R. Ralat: I’m surprised I don’t get the bourbon at all.
Steven Phelps: It’s a totally different take on the barrel-aged beer. I can maybe seen a bourbon influence in the color. The Curieux has a great finish. It’s nice and creamy, and the Belgian yeast soft across the tongue.
BB: Last time I tried Curieux, it was hot — as in all I could taste was the alcohol— and it was terrible. This is much smoother with no hint of the level of alcohol. There’s great carbonation and I taste a little of oak across the palate.
JR: It gets boozier as it warms. It’s slight, but the 11 percent alcohol by volume is finally coming through. This is a rare one among bourbon barrel-aged beer.
SP: It’s like a unicorn.
Firestone Walker XVI Anniversary Ale
JR: [Taking a whiff of the beer] Wow. There’s some coffee.
BB: There’s a darkness to it: molasses, brown sugar, dark fruits. But it’s balanced and smooth, not burnt.
SP: Yeah, I get the prunes. It tastes like a very nice whiskey. And there isn’t much head.
BB: Probably because of the 13 percent ABV.
JR: Definitely a counterpoint to the Curieux but masterfully blended.
SP: Firestone got this right.